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Chicken Pot Pie that's light years away from Swanson's

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Ina’s chicken pot pie with fried chicken & waffles (photo by Steve Dolinsky)

As a child of the 70s, weened on “Dance Fever,” “Fantasy Island” and “The Love Boat,” (talk about an Aaron Spelling trifecta!) I still recall the name Swanson. Despite the fact I grew up in Minnesota with dozens of Swensons and Johanssons and, of course, Swansons, the name rings a lot of bells for me. But it also resonates on a culinary level, since there was always some real estate in our freezer dedicated to this mythical family with the hearty, frozen dinners.

My mom wasn’t exactly a huge cook. By the time she had me, she had already raised two kids, and I think her enthusiasm for cooking from scratch was beginning to wane. On more than a few occasions, as she and my dad would go out on a Saturday night, I would tuck into a piping hot chicken pot pie (from freezer to oven to plate in about a half hour) and I could have cared less if it was made by mom or a team of industrial workers in a plant somewhere in the middle of the country.

I’ve often found myself looking for something along those lines, but obviously, with a much more homespun, homemade approach. Look no further than Ina Pinkney’s version at her eponymous restaurant in West Town, along Randolph Street. Known more for her breakfast creations (she is, afterall, the “Breakfast Queen”), Ina whips up a simple yet hearty chicken pot pie for lunch as well. The secret is her flaky pastry cap, which is rolled out and baked separate from the filling. By doing this, she creates a pleasant contrast between the silky, creamy and satisfying filling of sauteed chicken and vegetables, beneath a crispy crown of baked pastry dough. This allows you to finagle a series of texture-satisfying bites of soft and crisp, chewy and crunch in nearly every bite.

I’m featuring her chicken pot pie today on the 11 a.m. news on ABC 7, which you can watch here. We’ll be providing the recipe for it on the ABC 7 website. There’s also a brief shout-out to her seriously good fried chicken and waffles, just in case you’re craving something a little crunchier.

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